April 21, 2019

Scientists to release first images of a black hole's event horizon

10 April 2019, 07:13 | Edward Lowe

At the Event Horizon Astrophysicists Set to Reveal First

At the Event Horizon Astrophysicists Set to Reveal First

And the black hole is only located about 26,000 light-years away from Earth - a distance of 152,844,260,000,000,000 miles (245,978,990,000,000,000km). Everything science knows about black holes is based on inference rather than actually witnessing one with our own eyes (electronic or otherwise), but that may be about to change.

Simultaneous news conferences are scheduled in Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo. At the center of most galaxies lies a supermassive black hole, which can have a mass billions of times greater than that of the sun, all crammed in a relatively small volume.

The U.S. National Science Foundation, which will host the event in Washington D.C., said the announcement was a "groundbreaking result". Images showing the radio signatures of both galactic-scale black holes are likely to be released at Wednesday's briefings.

The researchers targeted two supermassive black holes. This includes the director of the EHT project, Shepherd Doeleman, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Daniel Marrone, an astronomer with the University of Arizona, Avery Broderick, from the University of Waterloo in Canada, and Sera Markoff, of the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

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Wednesday news conference is expected to provide the first image of Sagittarius A* shadow on its accompanying disk of bright material. They are also located extremely far away from Earth.

This day, years in the making, is the product of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), which is a collaboration of several observatories around the world to form a radio telescope array as wide as Earth itself. Supermassive black holes are the largest kind, devouring matter and radiation and perhaps merging with other black holes.

In April 2017, eight telescope facilities that are participating in the Event Horizon Telescope project took a close look at our galaxy's central region, known as Sagittarius A* (that is, Sagittarius A-star, abbreviated as Sgr A*).

And in January 2019, scientists saw the oldest black holes in the universe for the first time.

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The Event Horizon Telescope network. Theory states that the singularity is permanently hidden from view behind the "event horizon", defined as the radius within which nothing can leave the black hole.

Yet despite technological advancements in astronomical imaging, black holes have remained an enigma, partly because they are so compact and dense.

Beyond the historical implications of such an achievement, imaging a black hole's event horizon will also put Einstein's theory of general relativity to its ultimate test.

"The shape of the shadow will be nearly a flawless circle in Einstein's theory", Psaltis stated, adding, however, that "if we find it to be different than what the theory predicts, then we go back to square one and we say, 'Clearly, something is not exactly right, '" cited by Reuters.

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